U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian military seize record $1.4 billion in illicit drugs

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Member of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cutter James crew and the Royal Canadian Navy offloaded a record haul of confiscated drugs Thursday morning at Port Everglades.

The seized drugs are worth more than $1.4 billion — note the ‘b’ — and sagged the docks under the weight of about 59,700 pounds of cocaine and 1,430 pounds of marijuana, according to the Coast Guard’s Vice Adm. Steven Poulin.

“Yesterday was the U.S. Coast Guard’s 231st birthday — since Aug. 4, 1790 — and we can’t think of a better way to commemorate that birthday today with the Cutter James crew and to thank the crew the [Canadian ship] Shawinigan,” Poulin said as he shared dock space with the haul and local media in Fort Lauderdale.

“The biggest in Coast Guard history,” he said, also sharing credit with agencies including Homeland Security, the DEA, FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office.

The amount of seized drugs? “Double the Fall of 2020’s patrol,” said Cutter James’ Commanding Officer, Capt. Todd Vance.

A pallet of seized drugs is taken from the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James to Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 5, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian military held a drug offload with about 59,700 pounds of cocaine and 1,430 pounds of marijuana from multiple Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea interdictions.
A pallet of seized drugs is taken from the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James to Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 5, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian military held a drug offload with about 59,700 pounds of cocaine and 1,430 pounds of marijuana from multiple Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea interdictions.

According to the Coast Guard, the drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea. Contraband was seized during 27 interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels by 10 American, Dutch and Canadian ships. About 150 sailors from the U.S. and Canada were involved in these efforts.

“Central, South America and the Caribbean, we refer to this as our neighborhood,” said Lt. Gen. Andrew Croft, military deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command. “Of the 31 nations in that neighborhood, the No. 1 threat to their security is the transnational criminal organizations that generate over $60 billion a year in illicit activities — of which 89% comes from what you see in front of you.”

South Florida and other cities across the U.S. face the threat of the “evils of the drug trade,” Vance and Croft added.

“We lost 92,000 Americans to drug overdoses last year,” Croft said. “This is an effort we will continue to focus on and get after.”

Members of the crew of the Canadian vessel HMCS Shawinigan at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. The crew and U.S. Coast Guard crews offloaded about 59,700 pounds of cocaine and 1,430 pounds of marijuana from multiple Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea interdictions.
Members of the crew of the Canadian vessel HMCS Shawinigan at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. The crew and U.S. Coast Guard crews offloaded about 59,700 pounds of cocaine and 1,430 pounds of marijuana from multiple Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Sea interdictions.

Also at the media event: Canadian Defense Attaché, Maj. Paul Ormsby, and Cmdr. Bill Sanson, the commanding officer for the Canadian Navy’s HMCS Shawinigan.

“Interdicting these drugs helps bring hope and stability to out western hemisphere and other nations who are committed to the rule of law,” Poulin said.

“Canada and America are committed to expanding cooperation on defending North America against illicit trafficking and transnational crime and working together within our alliances,” said Ormsby. “We know that no nation can do it alone, and we know that we are stronger together. The kind of cooperation that we see on the pier today is one of the thousands of impressive examples of cooperation every day.”

The confiscated drugs will be turned over to inter-agency teams. The U.S. Attorneys’ Office will handle the prosecution of those apprehended and charged.

The gathered group at Port Everglades would not provide details on the 27 separate events, citing ongoing investigations.

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